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Seniors take part in health festival

Rebecca Burk Ellis / L’Observateur / July 15, 1998

LAPLACE – Senior citizens in the River Parishes had the opportunity to fellowship, learn, win prizes and take advantage of freebies Tuesday morning.

The Senior Day Program at River Parishes Hospital and Twin Oaks Nursing and Convalescent Home hosted the second annual Senior Health Festival at the Knights of Columbus Hall. And it was filled with curious seniors whowanted to learn more about health care and paying for it.

Alan Heumann, director of the Senior Health Insurance Information Program or SHIIP of the Louisiana Department of Insurance, spoke about Medicare versus HMO’s.

“This is a critical topic for all of us to be aware of because there is so much going on in health care now,” Eve Boasberg of Twin Oaks and Riverlands Health Care Center said before introducing Heumann as the speaker.

Heumann said seniors across the state are trying to make the decision whether to have only Medicare, which is Medicare Fee for Service, or to have an HMO, which is Medicare Managed Care. “We made 150 presentationsto almost 7,000 people in Louisiana,” he said.

He said that the numbers of seniors making the switch is growing rapidly.

Sixteen percent of the Medicare population in Louisiana are on an HMO plan, he said, and that number grows by 2,000 to 3,000 each month.

Nationwide, 16 million seniors have HMO’s. “Louisiana is about the fastestgrowing state with enrollment in Medicare Managed Care by percentage,” he said.

The advantage is that an HMO provider has to take basically anyone, with exception of a few including those recently diagnosed with a terminal illness or renal disease. Heumann said other ailments such as strokes,heart attacks, high blood pressure and diabetes don’t matter.

And HMO’s cover more than just Medicare. For an estimated $20 a monthpremium, seniors can get a Medicare HMO that covers prescriptions, vision discounts and audio discounts at certain places.

Heumann shared the advantages of HMO’s, but also shared the disadvantages. One, he said, was loss of freedom in choosing a primarycare physician. “You are locked in to receiving care from that network thatyou choose,” he said.

And coverage is only available in certain areas.

Heumann told the seniors if they want to make the switch that all of the HMO providers were the same except for the provider network they offered. But to make the switch is an individual decision. “We can provideyou with objective advice, but we can’t recommend one over the other,” he said. “That’s your decision to make.”Maurice Lambert, 74, and his wife Denise are pleased with their medical coverage. Maurice has an HMO with United Health Services and Denise, whois a retired cook for the St. John School System, has SmartPlan andMedicare.

“They just send us a copy of the bill,” Maurice Lambert said. “We don’thave any trouble right now.”The Senior Health Festival also featured booths with information on nutrition, exercise and different ways to stay healthy. They also offeredblood sugar screenings.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Sean Roussel, director of public relations at River Parishes Hospital, said of the health festival. “It’s good to getseniors aware of health care.”

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